Friday, January 9, 2004
Duffy weathers tough times on the farm
In a brief year-end session on December 18 the Conservation Commission heard a doggedly upbeat Mark Duffy describe a notably downbeat twelve months. Victim of a triple economic whammy, Carlisle's sole dairy farmer and cranberry grower reported that burgeoning berry crops from Canada and Iowa have flooded an already glutted market, while dairy prices dipped to 20-year lows, and new policies at Great Brook Farm State Park threatened ice cream stand profits.
Declaring, "I don't want to be negative because I love what I do, but I have no idea yet what I'll get for this year's cranberry crop," Duffy said the resulting income gap explains why he has been unable to complete work called for in his lease of the town-owned Bog." He reminisced about past years when things were going "gung-ho," but admitted that right now the income just isn't there. "I can't solve the problems facing the cranberry industry," he said, but he hastened to add that, "Long-term, farmers are optimists, and I don't intend to give up."
Duffy told the Commission that he has cut costs as much as good agricultural practice permits, but this has meant that he can't afford to hire others to share the considerable workload. Specifically, he has been unable to undertake reconstruction of the exterior stairway to the third floor of the Bog House as promised. Commission Chair Tricia Smith reminded him that an excellent architect's design is available, and the Commission is concerned about possible safety problems. Duffy responded that he understood where they were coming from, but observed that unfortunately, as things stand right now, he would have to do the $9,000 job himself as the farming workload allows.
When commissioners suggested that Cranberry Bog income might be increased if the public were invited to pick their own berries as is often done with apples and strawberries, the farmer explained that a cranberry bog would be irreparably damaged by people walking on it. Short term, the project might be advantageous, but long term, it would be a disaster.
Smith turned next to a continuing concern about possible runoff from the sandpit across the road from the Bog House, where Duffy composts waste materials from the Great Brook Farm dairy. She was fearful that any runoff reaching the Great Brook itself would constitute a violation of the Clean Water Act. She stressed the importance of maintaining an effective control between a drainage ditch and the brook. Duffy insisted that he had used large haybales and silt fence barriers, but agreed to monitor them carefully. Conservation Administrator Sylvia Willard has since reported that the situation seems to be well under control at present.
Changing the subject, Duffy reported that he had mowed out "the woody things" at Foss Farm before the snow fell and has planted a winter rye cover crop at Hutchins-Robbins Fields. He indicated that he had been planting alfalfa and orchard grass in the lower field at Foss Farm and has harvested a good crop of field hay in place of corn for his dairy herd. "The cows seem to be enjoying it," he concluded.
© 2004 The